Genesis 37-39 and Psalm 10

Psalm 10 is incredibly timely as our presidential election cycle builds to a crescendo.

The Lord is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.
You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals will never again strike terror.Psalm 10:16-18

Today we begin the story of Joseph, one of the most compelling characters in the Old Testament. Joseph is the Jacob’s first son with Rachel, the wife he desired most and work for 20 years to earn. It’s a bit difficult to imagine the culture of those days, so many children through multiple wives and concubines, honestly hard to get my mind around. Takes some time to switch gears mentally.

Within the clan, Joseph is despised by his brothers because Jacob treats him differently, “they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” Joseph had a dream, one where he prospered over his brothers, a dream he choose to tell them about, “they hated him all the more.” Joseph appears to be taunting his brothers while feigning innocence (since he was only 17). He even includes Joseph and Rachel as characters bowing to him:

“What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Joseph Sold by His Brothers

One fateful day, Joseph was sent to check on his brothers as they tended the flocks. When he finally found his brothers, “they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.” But Reuben spoke into this plot and convinced them to simply “throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness.” They toss Joseph in the empty cistern, then sit down to enjoy dinner (my embellishment). Judah has an idea, “let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hand on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” So Joseph was sold and taken to Egypt. Apparently, Reuben was not part of this conspiracy because when he went back to the well, Joseph was not there, and he said, “The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?”

They took Joseph’s special robe, dipped it in blood from a slaughtered goat, and told Jacob that “Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.” Understandably, Jacob is heart-broken, distraught with grief.

Judah and Tamar — Side Story

Meanwhile, Judah moves out and starts a family with the daughter of a Canaanite. They had three sons, Er, Onan and Shelah. Er and Onan are wicked, “so the Lord put [them] to death.” Er’s wife was Tamar. Judah wanted to protect both Shelah and Tamar, so he told Tamar to live as a widow in his household why Shelah grows up. Tamar has a plot of her own and gets pregnant by Judah when she disguised herself as a prostitute. Strange story indeed. Ultimately, she has twins: Perez and Zerah. Perez, as in Matthew 1:3, in the lineage of Jesus. End of side story.

Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife

“The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master” (Genesis 39:2). Potiphar put Joseph in charge of everything, so all prospered because of God’s blessing on Joseph. Potiphar’s wife lusted after Joseph and kept asking him to “Come to bed with me!” but Joseph refused. “And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.” Eventually, she gets aggressive, but Joseph runs away, leaving his cloak in her hands. She makes up a story that suggests he was “making sport” of her and he gets thrown in prison. Joseph, once again, flourishes in prison, “he was made responsible for all that was done there.”

It’s hard to imagine that Joseph kept a positive spirit during all of this turmoil. I really wonder how his diaries read during those days, yet God continues to bless him and prepares him for the next phase.

What is my struggle today? Could it be that God is preparing me for a blessing? Or perhaps my actions will bless another Joseph? I don’t think the point of this story is to be faithful and get blessed, I think the point is simply to be faithful. Trust that God has a plan beyond what we can see. That’s hard to do in the midst of troubles–that’s why it’s called faith.

Lord, teach us to be faithful, always trusting in your ways above ours.

Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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